Hamilton now home to six-foot bronze statue of Gandhi

This article was originally published in CBC Hamilton, Sept. 29, 2012

Gandhi came to Hamilton in spirit Saturday afternoon.

He also came in 450 kilograms of bronze.

That was the message shouted by Rama Singh, the chair of the Gandhi Peace Festival in Hamilton as he unveiled a six-foot bronze statue of the iconic activist.

Saturday marks the 20th annual Gandhi Peace Festival in Hamilton.

Singh, a McMaster biology professor, first put together an event with the India-Canada Society at City Hall to commemorate Gandhi’s 125th birth anniversary in 1993.

But Singh saw a greater opportunity for peace-building.

“That really made me think — there’s room for a constructive event, bringing all people together for peace,” said Singh.

From there, the idea of organizing an annual peace festival came to life.

“It’s an appeal to the Canadian conscience,” Singh said. “To learn that constructive peace-building is non-glamorous and difficult.”

The Gandhi Peace Festival brings together a diverse group of organizations: the India-Canada Society, the City of Hamilton and McMaster’s Centre for Peace Studies.

While the festival is meant to honour Gandhi and his approach to non-violence, its larger purpose is a community-wide approach to engage in social justice issues, including poverty and diversity.

Event co-organizer Sumbul Syed likes to think of the festival as a hub that connects people to social service organizations.

In fact, no one is too young to be a part of this dialogue for peace. This year’s Peace Festival had 25 student volunteers from three Hamilton high schools doing their part to promote the event.

McMaster students in the first year peace studies course will also attend the festival as part of their course assessment.

“It’s almost like planting a seed for peace,” said Syed. She views it as an opportunity for Mac students to see how theories of peace are applicable in the real world.

The festival featured South African consul general Tselane Mokuena and Mayor Bob Bratina, who unveiled the statue alongside councillor Brian McHattie.

Local organizations like the YWCA, the City’s Centre for Peace, and the Hindu Samaj temple were also onhand.

But peace-building efforts will not simply stop once the festival finishes, Syed says.

Conversations about peace will continue with a peace conference in December and a Gandhi debate amongst McMaster students, she added.

For a gallery of photos from the event, head over to the CBC Hamilton Facebook page, here.